All of Britain's a stage this summer: Our pick of the best 2013 festivals

From fringe comedy to Cambridge Shakespeare, Ben Walsh looks at some of the finest options available this year

"Without music life would be a mistake," Nietzsche once maintained. And, clearly, the übermensch theorist is spot on. However, there's more to the UK festival summer than indie-rock anthems and string quartets.

A lot more, in fact, from night-time balloon spectaculars (the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta) to watching the sharp-witted Sarah Millican discuss Jack Reacher novels with Lee Child (the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival) to journeying around Brighton on Peter Blake's "flamboyant and groovy" Art Bus (Brighton Fringe Festival). The winter has been arduous, but Britain is ready to emerge with an explosion of festivities.

"The anticipation of Nightglow is unbeatable as the arena gets darker," enthuses Annie Johansen event organiser of the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, which is expected to attract 500,000 visitors over four days and is renowned for Nightglow, which two rows of hot-air balloons, between 30-36 in total, float into the dark."Balloon burners are fired in time with the music to produce a choreographed light display, with a massive firework display to finish," Johansen explains.

It promises to be breathtaking, as does watching the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button tear up the track for the Goodwood Festival of Speed, or witnessing a foolhardy soul devour 10 sausages while drinking a pint of cider at the Great British Food Festival, or sampling art pieces (5 Down, 20 Across) from local artists, aged from just 2 years old to 92, at the Brighton Fringe Festival.

All tastes are catered over the summer, with cheese, arts and crafts, literature, CBeebies celebrities, pickles, comedy, fire-eating, folk-dancing, Shakespeare, living-history encampments, wine and more on the menu. Some festivals even attempt to cater to all, such as London's children's festival LolliBop. "It offers everything from live music, theatre, walk-about performance, sport, literacy, workshops, dance lessons, circus skills and cooking classes," says Jenny Kane, LolliBops's event manager.

If you didn't bag a Glastonbury ticket, you can always sample Hamlet on an idyllic Cambridge lawn instead. To paraphrase the Bard himself, all of Britain's a stage this summer.

Goodwood Festival of Speed

"Racing burns like a fever inside me," Steve McQueen once maintained and the Bullitt star would have loved this haven for motor-racing fans. F1 speed merchants Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, and Jenson Button will be in action , with McLaren, Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes all confirming their presence. Goodwood (right), now in its 20th year, also attracts the likes of past greats such as Sir Jackie Stewart, Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell. Vroom vroom...

Where: Goodwood, Sussex (www.goodwood.co.uk/festival-of-speed; 01243 755055)

When: 11-14 July

How much: 4-day entry £229; Friday £85; Saturday and Sunday £113.

Just So Festival

Set in Rode's Grade II-listed park and gardens, this festival of creativity is aimed at young people and their families. The event embraces literature (Melanie Williamson reads from her book Wolf's Magnificent Master Plan), puppet theatre (including the offbeat jazzy tale There's a Monster in My Pocket), workshops (including Bollywood dance) and installations.

Where: Rode Park, Cheshire (www.justsofestival.org.uk; 07714 082190)

When: 16-18 August

How much: Adult weekend with camping £95; child weekend with camping £40; adult day ticket £30; Child day ticket £15; under 3s free.

Bristol International Balloon Fiesta

"We fly balloons on a fuel called love," maintained indie-rockers Foals and you can embrace your passion for hot-air contraptions at Europe's largest annual balloon event. The Bristol fiesta features 150 balloons, and Nightglow (below), with 30-odd balloons, glowing in time to music is a spectacular firework finale.

Where: Ashton Court Estate, Bristol (www.bristolballoonfiesta.co.uk)

When: 8-11 August

How much: free

Great British Beer Festival

Fanatics gather to sample over 800 cask and bottled real ales, ciders and foreign beers from round the world. The boozy bonanza plays host not only to great beers (Blackberry Stout and Oakwell Senior are recommended), but also a range of activities including tutored tastings, traditional pub games and live music. Beers average £3.50 a pint.

Where: Olympia Exhibition Centre, London W14 (www.gbbf.org.uk)

When: 13-17 August

How much: tickets from £8

The Great British Food Festival at Capesthorne Hall

Definitely a place to arrive at seriously hungry. The men vs food challenges are notorious at this satisfying gathering. Last year challengers were asked to scoff down 10 sausages while drinking cider - not one for acid reflux sufferers. Other things to savour are cake-offs, live music, chef demos, a wide choice of hot foods, vintage and craft stalls.

Where: Capesthorne Hall, Siddington, Macclesfield (www.greatbritishfoodfestival.com/capesthorne.asp)

When: 13 & 14 July, 10.30am to 5pm

How much: children under 12 free, adults £6 in advance

LolliBop Festival

LolliBop, now into its fourth year, is the UK's biggest festival for children under 10. "The big bash for little people", which has moved from Regent's Park to the Olympic Park this year, features favourite characters TV characters, a circus Big Top, hula hooping workshop, arts and crafts and live acts.

Where: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London E20 (www.lollibopfestival.co.uk)

When: 16-18 August

How much: early bird single ticket £20; family of four tickets £78

Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival

Don your deerstalker for this crime writing showcase. This year's highlights include Brenda Blethyn discussing Vera and comic Sarah Millican interviewing Lee Child. Plus appearances from Susan Hill, Ian Rankin and Ruth Rendell.

Where: Various venues, Harrogate (www.harrogateinternationalfestivals.com/crime/)

When: 19-22 July

How much: Vary according to event

Brighton Fringe Festival

Brighton's open access festival embraces "any art form", including the Peter Blake Art Bus, a double-decker which contains "groovy" art on the inside and out from the godfather of British pop art, comedy from Luisa Omielan (What Would Beyonce Do?) and absurdist theatre from Livestock, The Life and Adventures of Billy the Kid. The four-week fiesta, which runs alongside the Brighton Festival, also features children's workshops, comedy from Stewart Lee, classical orchestras and "exploding jellies".

Where: Various venues, Brighton (www.brightonfringe.org; 01273 917272)

When: to 2 June

How much: ticket prices vary according to the event.

The Great British Cheese Festival

Last year 10,000 visitors followed their noses to Cardiff (below) for a festival that features over 600 cheeses and 200 beers and ciders in the various markets, bars and stalls. There are also masterclasses exploring different aspects, styles or regions of cheese, and demonstrations on how to make an award-winning cheese.

Where: Cardiff Castle, Wales (www.thegreatbritishcheesefestival.com/)

When: 22 & 23 September

How much: adults £8.95 on the day; under 5s free.

Cambridge Shakespeare Festival

What a way to see theatre. This year, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Comedy of Errors, Much Ado About Nothing, Cymberline, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer's Night's Dream, Richard III and dark masterpiece Hamlet are performed in the idyllic gardens of Cambridge University's colleges. Productions are performed in full period costume.

Where: The college gardens of Cambridge University (www.cambridgeshakespeare.com)

When: 8 July-24 August

How much: £15 (concessions £11)

Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Arts and Entertainment
TV
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot